Dog Word of the Day: Setter Dog


Dogs have been used for many years as working partners and along with the retrievers, the pointers and the spaniels, the setter dog deserves his spot of honor for being cherished as a gun dog. What is a setter dog? There are several different types of setter dogs and each one of them has unique traits that makes them special. Today, we’ll be discovering more about exactly what setter dogs are, we’ll take a look back into their history and what specific tasks setter dog breeds have been selectively bred to accomplish.

dog-setterWhat is a Setter Dog?

A setter dog is basically a gun dog with a history of hunting birds such as quail, grouse and pheasant.

The name of these dogs derived from these dogs’ practice of “setting,” in other words, crouching low upon spotting birds at a certain distance. Therefore, when it comes to detecting birds, we have pointer dogs  that”point,” while setter dogs “set.”

The first setters are believed to date back to the 15th century in the United Kingdom.

Setter dogs are quick, stylish dogs who have a natural instinct to show interest in birds, a trait that has been often described as being “birdy.”

When it comes to appearance, most setters are blessed with a long, smooth coat of a silky texture. They can come in a variety of coat colors and are known for having long feathery tails.

dog tipDid you know? When setters catch the scent of a bird, they will wag their tails rhythmically. This tells the hunter that they have managed to track down game.

What Does a Setter Dog Do?


Setter dogs are known for using a systematic hunting style. As mentioned, they are known for “setting” upon noticing quarry. Setter dogs are silent dogs that use their powerful noses for hunting.

Unlike hounds, who tracks smells keeping their head low to the ground, setter dogs will carry their heads up as they search for birds by analyzing scent molecules wafting in the air.

Rather than chasing the birds as many dog would do by instinct, upon spotting the birds, setter dogs will crouch and “set,” a behavior that came handy in the past when hunters would toss a net to trap the birds.

When the use of nets were replaced by guns, setter dogs came still handy. They would hunt by freezing  so that the birds could be “flushed” and then shot by the hunter.

What Dog Breeds are Setters?

As mentioned, setters dogs are gun dogs who assisted hunters in finding game. Because setter dogs specialized in hunting birds, they were often referred to as “bird dogs” as well. There are several dog breeds that are considered to be setters. The American Kennel Club lists setters under the sporting dog group. The term “sport” is meant to depict the trend of hunting as a form of entertainment for members of the nobility and elite classes, a trend that was particularly popular in England. Following are four types of setter dog breeds.

Irish SetterCapture

This dog is quite popular for its red or chestnut coat. It wasn’t until the 19th century though that kennels started producing solid red setters. Irish setters were selectively bred for bird setting and retrieving. Back in time, Irish hunters needed a dog who was fast working, equipped with a powerful sniffer and large enough to be seen from a distance. The Irish setter filled the gap with its known versatility.

CaptureIrish Red and White Setter

This breed of dog as the name implies, originated in Ireland. It shares many similarities with the Irish setter, one main difference though is the coat which, as the name implies, is white and red. The Irish red and white setter was originally bred to hunt birds such as the partridge, pheasant, woodcock or grouse which tend to hide rather than take flight. Despite being an old breed, the Irish red and white setter risked extinction at one point when the red setters became more popular. Thankfully, breeders took action to preserve the breed.

english-setterEnglish Setter

The English setter is the oldest type of setter, perhaps dating back to the 14th century. As the other setters, the English setter  was selectively bred to  locate quarry on the moors and then set util the birds were dispatched. Edward Laverack played a major role in breeding these dogs and coined the term”belton“to depict the roan and ticked flecks of colors seen in the breed, The term derives from the city of Belton where Laverack often hunted.

gordon-setterGordon Setter

Gordon setters come from Scotland and were used there at least from the 1600s. This breed’s name derives from the Fourth Duke of Gordon who cared for many of these dogs at Gordon Castle. Gordon setters are the heaviest and slowest of the setters, and this trait became most pronounced when the breed first entered the show ring. Robert Chapman though worked on making this breed less ponderous. This breed though still remains slower than the other flashy setters.

Watch two Setter Dogs in Action!

Photo Credits:

  • Irish Red and White Setter during International dog show in Rzeszów, Poland, by Pleple2000CC BY-SA 3.0
  • The head of a female English Setter by Franza1984Own work – Opera creata e caricata dall’autore Public domain
  • Gordon Setter portrait by R. ArkesteynOwn work CCBY3.0
  • Irish Setter with a duck, 1855 Karl Ucherman Public Domain


What is a Topknot for Dogs?


In the world of dogs, there is a wide array of colorful terms and the word “topknot” is surely one of them. You might have never heard about this term, or perhaps you heard it and are unsure of what it means. Or even better, perhaps you never heard the word ” dog topknot'” before and you are curious about how this term pertains to dogs. Here’s a little hint: owners of certain dog breeds are quite familiar with this term, especially those folks who are in the dog showing business. So today’s questions is:

What is a Topknot for Dogs?

A  It’s a special hairdo of certain dog breeds

B It’s a special knot made on top of a leash for better grasping when grooming

C It’s the technical name for a special knot made to prevent an elastic band from sliding off a dog’s hair

D It’s a special type of barrette used to keep a dog’s hair in order

The correct answer is: drum roll please…




The correct answer is A, a top knot is a special type of hairdo of certain dog breeds.

what-is-dog-topknotWhat is a Dog Topknot?

So what on earth is exactly a dog’s topknot? In simple terms, a dog’s top knot is a type of pony tail on the top of the dog’s head that is often held in place with a flashy bow or barrette.

Of course, not all dog breeds may boast a top knot considering that it requires a certain length of hair!

Most dog breeds that can be adorned with a topknot  have long, flowing hair over the forehead, something commonly seen in dogs breeds with hair covering their eyes.

Dogs may boast a topknot in the show ring when they are being exhibited or they may just carry their hair this way to look neat or cute and/or prevent their hair from covering their eyes.

A topknot also comes handy in keeping a dog’s hairs free of moisture or debris such as when the dog is drinking or eating.

Four Dog Breeds with Top Knots


Perhaps, one of the most popular dog breeds boasting a topknot is the shih-tzu. A dapper topknot indeed is the shih-tzu’s signature style, one that many people associate the breed with. You won’t typically see  shih-tzu puppies with this hairdo as the hair doesn’t grow long enough until shih-tzu are at least five months of age, explains the American Kennel Club. 

Another cute dog breed who sports a a topknot is the Maltese. The Maltese has a glorious flowing coat which in the show ring gives the impression of these dogs to be floating on air. A Maltese topknot is one of the most charming features of this breed especially when adorned by two cute little bows. You may see the breed sport one single top knot, mostly seen in puppies or a double top knot as seen in adults once they have sufficient hair.

The Yorkshire terrier is another breed known for sporting topknots adorned with cute red bows. Indeed, a little bow-ribbon has become one of the first identifiable features of this breed.

And then comes the Lhasa apso. This breed is not typically shown in the show ring with a top knot, as normally they are shown naturally with their hair parted down the middle, but many dog owners enjoy adorning their faces with this practical hair-do.

dog tipDid you know? The term top knot is also used sometimes to refer to the hair on the dog’s skull,  starting from the stop to the dog’s occiput.

How to Make a Dog Topknotlowchen-top-knot

Perhaps the hardest part of making a topknot is keeping a dog still! If your dog breed is one that requires frequent grooming, training a dog to stay may come helpful.

Don’t forget though to also train a release cue, so that your puppy or dog know when’s he’s free to move about again!  A common release cue used in dog training is “done!” which is more preferable than “OK” since, the word OK is used commonly in every day language.

Once your puppy or dog learns to stay still, you can then incorporate working on his hair for gradually longer and longer periods of time. Just make sure to talk to your dog in calm, soothing voice as you groom him and don’t forget to thank him for staying still with a tasty treat!

Be careful not to hurt your dog when handling his hair, be very gentle. You always  want to make touching the hair a pleasant experience so that your dog remains calm and collaborative.

Once your dog has learned to stay still and cooperative (this may take from days to weeks of practice), part the hair over the top of your dog’s head using a fine toothed comb. Comb the hair thoroughly section by section until it is completely free of mats.  Using some bow gel may help keep the hairs sleek and static-free.

Next, comb the section straight up, as if you were making a ponytail but create a poof and hold it in place by twisting a tiny elastic band around it. Depending on the size of the elastic band you are using, you may have to wrap it around anywhere between 2 and 4 times. Make sure it’s not too tight or pulled too closely to the head.

Finally, wrap the hair coming out of the elastic band behind the elastic band and use another elastic band to secure it. This last step will form a cute fan at the top that can be embellished with a cute bow.

These are instructions for a simple topknot for dogs, but more intricate variations are possible. If your top knot doesn’t look anything close to the ones you have seen in pictures,  don’t be discouraged; consider that it may take months of practice to master a professional looking topknot for dogs! There’s a reason why groomers go to school to master the art of grooming!

And now for some eye candy, let’s take a look at some dogs breeds sporting their topknots!

Shih-tzu With Topknot


Yorkshire Terrier With Topknot


Maltese with two topknots secured by two bows


Lhasa Apso with Topknot



Photo Credits:

  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Dave, Toy CCBY2.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, PRO Petful Lowchen-10-Ch-Boondock Musicbox Don’t Roll Those Eyes At Me! CCBY2.0
  • A Tricolor Shih Tzu with a black nose and grey ear tips.Melanie Dullinger – White Magic Kennels- Own work, CCBY3.0
  • JorkshireNamedNika View author information, CCBYSA3.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons,  SheltieBoy AKC Helena Fall Dog Show 2011, CCBY2.0
  • A young Lhasa Apso All4lhasas at Slovenian Wikipedia, CCBYSA2.50


I am Your Dog’s Amygdala


Among the various structures of the brain, your dog’s amygdala plays a primary role in the way your dog interacts with the world. Your dog’s brain is ultimately the boss of his body and it cannot be denied that it runs the show, controlling everything your dog does even when he’s deep asleep curled up in a ball. The amygdala is only a small component of your dog’s brain but it plays a big role in your dog’s life. Learning more about this structure may provide you with a deeper understanding of how your dog views and experiences the world around him. So today’s let’s discover more about the dog’s amygdala, what it does and some problems it may encounter.

dog-amygdalaIntroducing Your Dog’s Amygdala

Hello, it’s me, your dog’s amygdala talking! Actually, as with many other parts of your dog’s body we come in pairs. For those word nerds out there, the plural of amygdala is amygdalae, and the word “amygdala” derives from the ancient Greek word “amygdale” meaning “almond.”

Apparently,  since we are shaped like almonds, somebody with a touch of creativity decided to call us this way. How cool is that? We are are also sometimes affectionately nicknamed “the neural nugget” considering that we are made of clusters of nuclei.

We’re the primitive part of your dog’s limbic system, a collection of special brain structures specially involved in emotions. We are therefore surrounded by some fascinating neighbors such as the pineal gland and your dog’s hippocampus.

If you’re looking for us, you can indeed find us right at the end of the hippocampus, a structure with which we exchange information.

We Work as a Threat Detection Systemwarning caution

When you think of us, think about the word “threat.” It’s is thanks to us that your dog is intimidated by threats and reacts accordingly in a fearful manner. You may think, why should I be thankful that my dog has fear?

Being fearful is not always a bad thing, it’s actually good if your dog is fearful of things that can actually pose a threat to his life and well being. “Is that thing in the distance a piece of rope or a poisonous snake?” If your dog startles, it is because we gave him the signal of alarm that makes him jump. Imagine not having fear for one moment…

An experiment was once done on rats where researchers, through a procedure known as deep lesioning were able to remove the amygdalae (ameygdalectomy) of rats. Deprived from us, the rats started no longer having fear and exhibited some serious, non-species-specific behaviors. They no longer feared cats as the removal of their amygdalae, resulted in their fear memories being swiped away for good. Of course, this is not good and one can imagine how these poor mice must have been fun for the cat to play with!

So yes, fear is important as it protects dogs (and any other living being) allowing self-preservation and protection of the species. If all mice weren’t scared of cats, imagine how quickly they would quickly become extinct!

We therefore play a role in fear conditioning. If your dog has started to show fear of the stairs because he heard a loud noise while climbing them, we are responsible for creating that fearful response. We gain information from the dog’s senses and then work in unison with our next door neighbor the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for storing memories of traumatic events so it sends us alert messages that causes us to react. Our teamwork therefore helps orchestrate the fear response.

 “The amygdala attaches emotional significance to the information coming into the brain, and has been called the command center of the emotions of surprise, rage and fear.”~Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.

When Things go Wrongscared dog fight or flight

Our goal is to ultimately keep your dog safe; however, sometimes things may get out of hand.  If we happen to regularly overreact, we create fertile grounds for an anxiety disorder to set in.

” It has been hypothesized that fear is, in part, due to chronic amygdala over-reaction and, or failure of the amygdala to turn off after the threat has passed” says Karen Overall, board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Things can get complicated because we are not really a thinking part of the brain, our job is to become alert from bad memories and just react, triggering the dog’s hypothalamus to initiate the fight and flight response. So there is no way you can really “reason” with your dog telling him it’s OK while we are in full blast alert mode.

There are schools of thought though that we can be trained to not react through exposure. The belief is that through gradual exposure, where nothing really negative happens to the dog, we might come to “learn” that there’s no threat and therefore stop going unnecessarily on alert.

Richard LeCouteur, a board-certified veterinary neurologist believes that the our reaction can at least be overridden. When the vet sticks a thermometer up a dog’s bum, “that’s in the amygdala forever,” says LeCouteur. The dog therefore develops anxiety when he goes in the car and knows he is going to the vet clinic. So does this mean that the dog will be forever frightened of going to the vet because the amygdala tells him so? Not all is lost it seems. According to LeCouteur. “The cortex can change its mind through conditioning and experience, and it can override the amygdala’s memory. Fear extinctions are stored in the cortex.”

Joesph LeDeoux, American neuroscientist says “Once your emotional system learns something, it seems you never let it go. What therapy does, is teach you how to control it—it teaches your neocortex how to inhibit your amygdala. The propensity to act is suppressed, while your basic emotion about it remains in a subdued form.”

At times, we can also be an area for seizure activity. The onset of intense and irrational fear may suggest this activity.  Fortunately, affected dogs respond to anticonvulsant therapy. “A seizure focus in the amygdala should produce inexplicable and intense fear. I have seen such cases, one confirmed by EEG and responding positively to anticonvulsant therapy,” says Nicholas Dodman for Veterinary Practice News.

“We are not, thankfully, completely at the mercy of the whims of our hippocampus and amygdala, subject to uncontrollable fears based on past bad experiences. We have some ability to take a step back and calm ourselves down. One of the parts of the brain involved in this higher-order cognition is the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This region of the brain has direct connections to both the hippocampus and the amygdala and appears able to mediate some of the signals coming from those two regions.”~Jessica Perry Hekman DVM

As seen, we play an important role in keeping your dog out of danger. OK, sometimes we may overreact, but we ultimately mean good. However, here’s some important piece of advice for you. When your dog starts developing signs of anxiety and fear, consult with a professional as soon as you can. The quicker you nip fears in the bud, the better chances those fears are prevented from putting roots and establish, insidiously wrecking havoc in your dog’s life. I hope this has helped you better understand your canine friend,

Best regards,

Your Dog’s Amygdalae Dog Pawprint



  • Goleman, NYTimes, Brain’s Design Emerges As a Key to Emotions, retrieved from the web on November 28th, 2016
  • Veterinary Practice News, Complex Partial Seizures Or Compulsive Behavior? retrieved from the web on November 28th, 2016
  • Brain Made Simple, Amygdala, retrieved from the web on November 28th, 2016
  • Calm Clinic, How to Amygdala Affects Anxiety,  retrieved from the web on November 28th, 2016

Photo Credits:


Facts About Silent Dog Whistle Training


You may have heard about dog whistles, special devices often portrayed as magically turning a distracted dog into an obedient dog who runs towards his owner immediately, no questions asked. As much as dog whistles may seem appealing, they are not really these magical training objects as they are often portrayed. No training tool will train your dog with no effort, suddenly turning incorrigible Marley into the most obedient dog of the planet. Here are some interesting facts about dog whistle training to be aware of before tossing the dog whistle into the trash.

Galton whistle, the first "dog whistle"
Galton whistle, the first “dog whistle”

1) Dog Whistles are Not as Modern as Thought…

When you purchase a silent dog whistle, you may think that it is some modern invention of the 21st century and that silent dog whistle training is a new trend.

In reality, dogs have been whistle trained for a very long time. Using their tongues, lips and pair of effective lungs, shepherds have been providing instructions to their herding dogs through whistle pips and blasts for centuries.

Whistles have also been used by hunters for many years so to provide their pointers, setters and retriever dogs with directions from a distance.

dog tipDid you know? The invention of the actual silent whistle dates back to 1876 when sir Francis Galton created it when studying how humans and animals hear. For this reason, dog silent whistles are also known as “Galton Whistles” so to honor his creator.

2) But They Come Handy in the 21st Century.whistle-training-dog

In more modern settings, police have been using silent whistles to signal to their dogs commands from a distance for quite some time. The whistle blast may tell the dog to corner a suspect without prior warning, so that the suspect doesn’t know what to expect, explains Stanley Coren in the book “How Dogs Think.”

You don’t though have to be a shepherd or a hunter or a policeman to reap the benefits of whistle training. Anybody can enjoy the amenities of silent whistle training their dogs.

Indeed, you can keep the tradition of whistle training dogs alive by simply relying on your own natural whistling abilities, or if you are a poor whistler, you can always purchase a professional dog whistle so that you can start whistle training your dog.

The art and tradition of training dogs with a whistle indeed has made a comeback, and it is being used with success even for training dogs simple cues such as a sit or a powerful recall.  For a good reason more and more dog trainers are wearing their silent whistles on a lanyard around their neck! This way, they don’t have to fear about losing their whistles and they can still provide additional visual cues such as directional hand movements as needed.


dog sense of hearing3) Silent Whistles Reach the Ultrasonic Range…

The silent whistle for dogs gains its name from the fact that it is meant to emit sounds that are in the ultrasonic range. What does this mean? It means that its sound can be detected by animals, but not necessarily by humans.

Dogs in particular are known for having a sense of hearing that can detect the ultrasonic range possibly courtesy of their past as hunters. Several squeaks of  small rodents indeed tend to reach the ultrasonic level and this may have been helpful to the dog’s ancestors.

“Ultrasound may posses some innate significance as a directional indicator for detecting and locating small prey animals whose distress vocalizations are expressed at ultrasound frequencies” says Steven Lindsay in the book ” Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Adaptation and Learning.”

A dog whistle is  therefore expected to reach the range of 23,000 to 54,000 hertz which is above the hearing range of humans considering that humans can only hear sounds between 64 to 23,000 hertz.

“Ideally dog whistles emit a frequency of between 23,000 and 54,000 Hz although some emit frequencies as low as 16,000 Hz (which people can hear) or much higher than 55,000 Hz (which dogs can’t hear).” ~D Caroline Coile, Margareth H. Bonham

4) But They are Not as Silent as Thought 

OK, they're not that noisy!
OK, they’re not that noisy!

The term silent whistle is a bit of a misnomer considering that the majority of silent whistles on the market emit a sound that humans can detect.

Humans though may not hear the silent whistle the same way dogs do and over the same distances, but they can detect a hissing sound.

Many dog owners are annoyed by the fact that they hear the sound. They believe the silent whistle must have a pitch that only dogs may hear, and  therefore think they have fallen victims of a gimmick, but after all, this feature comes handy, as at least you get to know the whistle is working properly!

“Silent dog whistles make use of the high-frequency sounds that dogs can hear and we can’t, but they are something of a gimmick: Whistles that produce at least some sound audible to human ears are much easier for us to control. (How can you tell when a silent whistle isn’t working?)” ~John Bradshaw

silent-whistle-dog5) Dogs Aren’t Born Whistle Trained 

Many dog owners toss away their silent whistle or ask the company that produces them their money back. Why? Because they expect their dogs to respond to it with no previous training!

If for instance, you look at several reviews, you might stumble on several dog owners making remarks such as: “My dog cared less about the silent whistle!” or “It doesn’t stop my dog from barking.”

Dogs are not born whistle trained and the dog whistle is not meant to stop a dog from barking, unless you invest some time in training your dog to respond to its sound so to interrupt a behavior and re-direct it by giving something else to do.

Just as with other training tools such as clickers and target sticks, dogs need some guidance to fully understand how dog whistles work.


But they Can Be Conditioned to Respond to its Soundsocial-dogs-running

A big mistake dog owners make when using a silent whistle is to not allow it to have a meaning.

Without any training, the dog may just show an orienting response the first few times the whistle is blown. The dog may twitch his ears in direction of the sound, perhaps turn his head or even come running to check on its source. Some dogs may bark.

On top of that, if the silent whistle is improperly overused, it just teaches dogs that it’s a sound they don’t need to listen for. Therefore, instead of learning to pay attention to it, they learn to ignore it (learned irrelevance), which is the opposite of what you might want.

To train a dog to come running at the sound of the silent whistle, the whistle needs to become a conditioned reinforcer for it to become effective. Conditioned reinforcers are basically things that are neutral and therefore don’t have much significance to the dog or minimal significance, but that through experience your dog has learned to appreciate because they have been associated with a primary reinforcer (anything your dog doesn’t need to learn to love) such as food.

How does a dog whistle assume such special meaning? Here is brief guide on whistle training a recall.

whistle-training-a-dogWhistle Training a Recall

If your dog is already trained to come when called and reliably responds to his name, adding the whistle to the mix can be as easy as pie. Simply, let three to four repeated blasts precede the regular words you use for a recall repeatedly (eg. 3-4  whistle blasts then “Rover come!”),  strongly reinforcing every time he comes to you with several treats given in a row.

After several repetitions of hearing the 3-4 whistles blasts followed by his name, your dog will soon start understanding that the new whistle blasts are a cue that precedes being called.

Since dogs have a tendency to anticipate, at some point, you’ll notice that he’ll start responding to the whistle alone even before you call his name!

If your dog instead isn’t reliable when it comes to coming when called, then you’ll have a little more work to do. Your first step is giving the whistle a strong meaning, and the best way is to do this is with tasty treats.

So start by blowing the whistle, and then giving a treat. Blow the whistle and give a treat. Repeat this exercise several times in a row, until your dog makes the association that the sound of the whistle means that a treat is coming. You know your dog got the the idea when, upon blowing your whistle, Rover comes looking for his treats.

Gradually, start increasing distance and adding distractions. Try blowing your whistle when your dog is away from you at a short distance and then when he is a bit distracted.

As your dog gets good at this, increase distance more and more and add more and more distractions. If your dog struggles coming to you at any time, you know that most likely, you are asking too much and your dog is not ready for this level of difficulty yet.

Progress slowly making sure you don’t jump ahead too much at a higher level when your dog still hasn’t mastered dealing with the challenges to the level prior to that.

dog tipTip: If your dog loves meal time and it’s one of the most anticipated events of the day, have a helper hold him (use caution if he gets too frustrated) while you prepare his meal. Then, use those whistle blasts a split second before you place the bowl on the floor as your helper releases him. Your dog will rush to eat his meal. Repeat a few times in the next few days. Then, prepare his meal one day while he is out and about exploring in the yard. Then, place the bowl on the floor, open the door and use those whistle blasts to announce to him that his dinner is ready in his bowl. Your dog should come dashing inside and the whistle sound will soon become music to his ears!

Did you just call me?

The Bottom Line

Whistle training is great tool that can bring appealing results. It comes handy when you are working on distance and when rain or high winds may cover your voice. A whistle works better than voice in guiding dogs because its sound is more consistent than voice.

The only few drawbacks is that you’ll need some conditioning exercises to introduce it to your dog so that it has a meaning and that you’ll have to carry it with you all the time you plan on training (but it’s a good idea to always keep it on you just in case). Look for a model that you can carry around your neck.

When it comes to pitch, consider that there are whistles that are fixed while others are adjustable and therefore come with a locking nut that can be loosened so to adjust the pitch. If that’s the case, you might have to experiment and figure out which pitch your dog responds best to.



  • Why Do Dogs Like Balls?: More Than 200 Canine Quirks, Curiosities, By D. Caroline Coile, Margaret H. Bonham, Sterling (September 2, 2008)
  • Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend …By John Bradshaw, Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Adaptation and Learning, By Steven R. Lindsay, Iowa State University Press, 2000.


Six Interesting Facts About A Dog’s Life Cycle


If dog lovers were asked about a dog’s life cycle, they would say that it’s too short! From the rambunctious days of puppy hood, to the slowing down process associated with aging, dogs surely cycle through these life stages quickly, filling our lives with much joy as we adapt to the changes from one stage of the dog’s life to another. Sharing our lives with our dogs is ultimately an important lesson as dogs teach us about valuing life and the importance of cherishing every happy moment it brings. Discovering more about a dog’s life cycle therefore, brings us closer to understanding our marvelous animals and knowing what to expect so that we can be one step ahead of the game.

mother dog1) Puppies Go Through Developmental Stages…

A dog’s life cycle starts from the day he or she is born. When you picked up your adorable puppy from your breeder, shelter or pet store at 8 weeks old,  you missed out several developmental stages the puppy has gone through. No worries! We will briefly outline some of the most important milestones for you.

Please note though that these development stages aren’t clear cut as each puppy develops at a different rate, and there may also be some overlapping between one stage and another. According to John Paul Scott and John Fuller’s studies on puppy development, the stages can be divided in 3 categories:

1. Neonatal stage (birth – 2 weeks). Born deaf, blind and unable to stay warm, puppies are in a pretty much helpless state. During the pup’s first two weeks of life though he goes through quite some rapid changes.

2. Transitional stage (2-3 weeks). During this stage, puppies start seeing and hearing. With their eyes open and their ability to stand and walk around a little, puppies start exploring the world.

3. Socialization stage  (3-13 weeks) With their senses developed, puppies are now learning more about their surroundings. This is the prime time when they should be introduced to pets and other people. While the breeder starts socialization in the home, it’s then up to the new dog owner to expand the pup’s socialization while still keeping the pup safe from infectious diseases. Puppies play a whole lot during this time and learn more about being a dog. Around 11 weeks (but there are variances), puppies may go through a fear period too.

“Scientists divide development into separate stages largely for descriptive convenience. However, development is a continual and dynamic process: Dogs do not abruptly leave one stage and enter another, rather the progression is smooth and the stages overlap considerably.”~ Ian Dunbar

2) And They Go Through a Teenager Phase Too!dog pawing eyes

Think the teenager phase only happens in humans? Think again; puppies go through doggy adolescence too! Sure, you won’t find Rover wearing headphones, drinking soda or chewing gum, but you may notice several changes both physically and mentally.

When do dogs hit this stage? Generally, the adolescent stage in dogs starts anywhere between the ages of 4 and 6 months. While all dogs go through the adolescent stage, in some dogs it may be barely noticeable, while in others, dog owners may pulling out their hair.

This is when Sadie gets goes by her second name “stubborn” and Rover’s second name becomes “rowdy.” You may notice your dog being more distracted, reluctant to pay attention and more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors (ie rowdy jumping, digging, barking etc)

Doggy adolescence is a temporary time of passage during which developing dogs start looking more and more like adult dogs, but their brain can still retain certain behaviors that may be puppy-like. Governed by powerful hormones, the dog’s body starts developing, with female dogs (those not spayed) going into heat and male dogs become more interested in urine marking, roaming and sniffing around.

Fortunately, adolescence in dogs doesn’t last forever, even though in larger dogs it tends to linger for a longer period of time. Generally, expect adolescence in small to medium dogs to last until the dog reaches 18 and 24 months, whereas, in large and giant dogs it may last even until 36 months (yup, until they’re 3 years old!) Fortunately, training (and possibly behavior modification) using gentle, yet consistent methods (with the help of a trainer/behavior consultant) can help nip problems in the bud before they become established.

“As with humans, an animal’s juvenile and adolescent periods have a profound impact on the animal’s behavior. This is the most trying time when raising a pet, and a time when most owners reach the limits of their knowledge and fall short of their obligations as a responsible pet owner.”~ Lore I. Haug

3) Adulthood Brings Stability….dog paw

Once dogs are past doggy adolescence, they will reach adulthood. When adulthood starts once again depends on your dog’s breed. Generally, adulthood in dogs may start at 18 months for the smaller breeds and 3 years of age for the large ones.

Many people find that their dogs at this point of their life-cycle are much easier to manage. With a full house-trained dog and the hyper puppy years just behind, adulthood brings the benefit of  dogs who are generally calmer and less demanding. Adulthood can be a nice smooth ride and dog owners enjoy the perk. Many dog owners report their dogs turning into “pure gold” once they reach age 5.

Sure, adult dogs will still enjoy exercise and mental stimulation, but generally they are less likely to be bouncing of the walls as they used to in the younger years. Dog owners who have invested their time wisely in socializing their dogs and getting them trained, are now rewarded with an obedient dog. Training though does not end now! Dogs thrive on being kept mentally stimulated and need a job, so this is a great time to enroll an adult dog in advanced obedience or perhaps some fun doggy sports.

4) While the Golden Years Bring Wisdomdog-guarding-home old

Depending on your dog’s breed, he will reach his golden years anywhere in between 7 and 10 years.
When dogs get old, you may notice a grey hair here and there on their muzzles and they may slow down a bit. They may prefer a calm stroll on a quiet path at a comfortably lazy pace in place of the brisk games of fetch or hide ‘n seek of his younger years.
In large dogs, joint pain may start developing as arthritis sets in, while smaller dogs may be prone to back and neck problems. Dental problems are not unusual considering the many years of tartar accumulating. You may also find that your older dog tends to sleep more than before and he may not need to eat as much as he used to.
Keeping up with regular vet visits is important at this point of the dog’s life cycle. The earlier problems are caught, generally the better the outcome.
dog-age5) The One Dog Year Equals Seven Human Years Turned Out Being a Myth….

You may have heard that you can easily convert your dog’s years into human years by simply multiplying your dog’s age by seven, but turns out, this simple calculation is inaccurate.

For sake of an example, let’s imagine that Bella, the saucy Pomeranian next door, is one year old. If you multiply her age by seven, then that would mean that she would be the equivalent of a 7-year old child. OK, so what’s wrong with that?

Problem is, that, at the age of seven, a child is likely still playing with her Barbie dolls, while Bella is mature enough to give birth to a litter of puppies! –Not saying that Bella should be bred, just that Mother Nature would have prepared her for reproductive success by this age.

On top of dogs maturing faster than people, there’s also the breed factor. Dogs come in many different shapes and sizes, and therefore dogs undergo different life cycles compared to one another.

Nowadays, there are more accurate ways to tell how many years a dog is compared to a humans’. For instance, there are several handy dog age calculators that are based on individual factors such as a dog’s breed. With the size factor kept into consideration, it is therefore more likely to get a better idea of how much a dog year equals in human years. While no calculator is totally accurate, they do a much better job than the old ‘one dog year equals seven humans years’ belief.

6) But the Fact that Large Dogs Age Faster is True.saint-bernard-breed

Actually, more than a matter of size or breed, longevity in dogs seems to be a matter of weight. Generally, statistics show us that dogs weighing under 30 pounds are the ones blessed with longer lifespans. However, since dog breeds come in average weights, one can roughly deduce a dog’s life expectancy by considering breed.

For instance, according to the UC Davis “Book of Dogs,” a small-breed dog such as a small terrier is considered geriatric at about 11 years; while a medium-breed dog (think larger spaniels) becomes senior at 10 years. When it comes to large-breed dogs such as German Shepherd dogs, they becomes seniors at 8 years while 7 years is considered already a geriatric age for giant-breed dogs such as great danes.

Of course, there are other factors to consider as well such as the dog’s diet, over all health, his lifestyle, not to mention the role of genetics. And as in people, sex also seems to play a role, considering that generally female dogs seem to live just a bit longer than male dogs. And when it comes to dog owners who elect to have snip-snip surgeries on their dogs, they are rewarded with more time with their pals considering that Science Daily tells us that spayed or neutered dogs live longer.

How long a dog lives is therefore ultimately a matter of genetic potential. Every animal is gifted with a certain pre-determined average lifespan. For instance, an elephant may live up to 70, whereas a giant tortoise can live a whole century. Dogs compared to humans weren’t really gifted with a long lifespan, considering that the average dog lives to be 13, but as much as this is saddening, we can at least feel better considering that a mouse barely makes it to 5!

dog tipDid you know? Scientists at the University of Washington are conducting research in hopes of unlocking the secrets for a longer lifespan in dogs. The field of study addressing the biology of aging  is called “geroscience” and you can learn more about it at  The Dog Aging Project website.


  • Siegal, Mordecai (Ed.; 1995). UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Book of the Dogs; Chapter 5, “Geriatrics”, by Aldrich, Janet. Harper Collins.
  • University of Georgia. “Spayed or neutered dogs live longer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2013
  • Dog Star Daily, Puppy Personality Development, retrieved from the web on Novermber 25th, 2016


Discovering The Six Different Types of Retriever Dogs


When it comes to retrievers, there are different types of retriever dogs and none of them were created equal. Each retriever dog type is unique and selectively bred to work in a certain environment even though the tasks carried out roughly remained quite the same. Retriever dogs fall under the gun dog category, dogs bred to work along hunters carrying out several different tasks. Gun dogs are split in three different categories: the retrievers, the spaniels and the pointers. Today, we will be discovering more about retriever dogs, the kind of work they were used for in the past (and continue to be used for nowadays) and the different types of retriever dogs that today populate the doggy planet.

The Gamekeeper, by Richard Ansdell (1815–85)
The Gamekeeper, by Richard Ansdell (1815–85)

Types of Retriever Dogs

As mentioned, a retriever is a type of gun dog. As the name implies, retrievers were selectively bred to retrieve game for the hunter. When the hunter aims and then shoots, these dogs are sent to retrieve any downed birds that land to the ground. In order to excel in their work, well-trained retrievers must meet certain requirements.

Retrievers  must be under control so to not interfere with the hunter as he’s aiming to shoot the birds. Sometimes the hunter may be in a small boat, and a rambunctious dog may easily capsize the boat. This gun dog’s ability to “steady to wing and shot” is therefore not only a matter of obedience but moslty a matter of safety.

Retrievers may also have a good memory so that they can remember where the fallen birds have landed, even when visibility is not the best. Since dogs do not see where the birds have exactly fallen, hunters call this a “blind retrieve.

On top of retrieving downed birds with precision, it is also quite imperative that retriever dogs return the birds with a soft mouth so to prevent spoiling the meat which will then be later served on the table.

All these tasks require a dog with a certain predisposition to follow directions and stay focused on the task, qualities that fall under the term of “biddability.” Retrievers are dogs who are often prized for their biddability, which is the opposite of what people describe as “head strong,” dogs who are more on the independent side, but not because of being stubborn, but mostly because of different work requirements.

1) Golden Retriever golden-retriever-hunting

The golden retriever was selectively bred to retrieve downed waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds. The breed was originally bred in Scotland in the mid 19th century when hunting for game birds both on water and land was particularly appealing to the Scottish elites of that time.

The ability to retrieve on land and water was a must back then considering that, at that time, the Scottish hunting grounds were covered in marshy ponds and rivers.

With the introduction of guns firing at longer ranges in the 1800s, there was a need for hunting dogs that would retrieve at great distances and on harsh terrains. It was the goldens who helped fill that role.

To succeed in their hunting tasks, Golden retrievers were selectively bred for a long coat with a dense undercoat meant to provide a nice layer of insulation topped with a water repellent top coat meant to help them dry off quickly. The biddable nature of golden retrievers makes them suitable today as family dogs that lend themselves to training and work as therapy dogs and assistance dogs.

labrador-retriever-hunting2) Labrador Retriever

Labrador retrievers originated from the island of  Newfoundland, Canada, where they were selectively bred as helpers for local fishermen in the early 1700s.

Labrador retrievers at this time were mainly used to haul nets and ropes and retrieve fish who were able to evade the hooks.

Impressed by this dog’s utility in working in the chilly North Atlantic waters, English sportsmen imported a few specimens to England and converted them into hunting companions. Instead of retrieving nets, Labradors were used to retrieve downed birds. Their powerful noses and willingness to follow directions, made them excel in this task.

Labradors are powerful dogs with a hardy water-proof coat that helps them tolerate exposure to cold water for extended periods of time. Their broad, strong tails and webbed feet helped them excel in becoming excellent swimmers.

Today, Labradors rank high as friendly companions and their eagerness to work has made them excellent candidates as drug and explosive detection, search and rescue and therapy or assistance dogs.

3) Chesapeake Bay Retrieverchesapeake-bay-retriever-hunting

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is not as common as the golden or Labrador retriever, but deserves a spot of honor among the retrieving dog breeds.

As other retrievers, Chesapeake Bay retrievers are large dogs with a history of retrieving waterfowl for hunters. This breed was developed in the United States in the 19th century

While the Labrador retriever has a smooth coat, the Chesapeake has a wavy coat. The coat is also water proof and may have a slightly oily feel that may have a musky odor.

The toes are webbed which contribute for swimming, not to mention this breed’s powerful chest that helps break ice apart when hunting ducks in the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake also boasts a unique amber, yellowish  eye color, which is quite unusual in dogs, considering that most dogs have brown eyes. Chesapeake are happy dogs, with lots of stamina and very smart. They have the potential to make wonderful companions when socialized well and trained.

curly-coated-retriever4) Curly Coated Retriever

As the name implies, this retriever has the distinguishing factor of having a heavily curled coat characterized by tight, crisp curls.

This dog breed was originally bred in England for the main purpose of hunting waterfowl. This is one of the oldest of the retrieving breeds, possibly established as early as 1860, and it also gives the impression of being  one of tallest retrievers, perhaps because of the moderate angulation of front and rear which gives the idea of being higher on leg.

Curly coated retrievers were prized for their ability to retrieve both furry and feathered animals from the heaviest cover and the iciest waters.

Affectionately called “curlies,” curly coated retrievers are still used in several countries as bird dogs that hunt both upland birds and waterfowl. The American Kennel Club describes the breed as being wickedly smart, a trait that makes it highly trainable and cherished as  a loyal companion both for the home and in the field. As long as they are provided with sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, as the other retrievers, curlies can become laid back in the home.

5) Flat Coated Retrieverflat-coated-retriever-retrieving

As the name implies, the flat coated retriever is a retriever with a coat that is flat, and not curly. This gun dog breed originates from the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century where it was selectively bred to retrieve both on land and in the water.

While the most common coat color is black, flat coated retrievers are also sometimes seen in dark brown and sometimes yellow.

The flat coated retriever was quite popular for some time, but then its numbers decreased when it was outranked by the more popular golden retriever.

As other retrievers, this breed has a tendency to want to please people and is an active companion who requires plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

The fact that flat coated retrievers have a strong sense of smell along with a biddable nature, makes them excellent candidates as drug sniffer dogs. Their great  temperament also makes them potentially good assistance dogs.

duck-tolling-hunting6) Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever is a medium-sized dog. It is the smallest of all the retrievers. Due to their small size, Tollers are often confused for a smaller version of the golden retriever.

As most of the other retrievers, this breed was selectively bred for hunting. As their name implies, Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers originated from southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada where for many years they were used for luring waterfowl (tolling) within shooting range and then retrieving the downed ducks.

Want to learn more about the unique hunting style of the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever? Read here: how Nova Scotia tollers hunts ducks.  Quite fascinating that is!

The Toller as several other retrievers is blessed with a water-repellent double coat that helped him retrieve ducks  from icy waters. Tollers are high energy dogs that require loads of exercise and mental stimulation. They are also very smart. To make them happy, they do best when they have a job to do. Nowadays, they are still used for hunting but also in several canine sports such as agility and dock diving. Tollers also make great search and rescue dogs.

Photo Credits:

  • A Golden Retriever, by Marlies KloetOwn work CCBY3.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, Blaine Hansel, Mac Pheasant Hunting, CCBY2.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, Donna Callejon, Dillon first snow CCBY2.0
  • Flat-Coated Retrievers retrieve well on land or in the water Gunnandreassen, CCBY3.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, Mattias Agar, Kita is chillin’ CCBY2.0
  • The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was bred to “toll”, or lure, ducks into shooting range by causing a disturbance near the shore. After the duck is shot, the dog brings it to the hunter. kallerna; Edited by jjron (cropped, adjusted levels and curves, sharpened) – Own work CC BY-SA 3.0


What’s Up With Dogs Eating Socks?


Is your dog eating socks? Let’s face it: dogs eat the oddest things and it’s therefore no longer surprising hearing about dogs eating socks. Veterinarians are much familiar with phone calls from distressed dog owners claiming with a sense of urgency: “My dog ate a sock, what should I do? ” The problem with dogs eating socks goes beyond owners looking for socks gone missing; rather, a dog eating socks may encounter some serious health problems which can easily amount to some hefty veterinary bills, especially when dogs are repeat offenders and have turned eating socks into their favorite hobby. So what’s up with dogs who swallow socks?

dog-stealing-sockDogs Stealing Socks for Play

Socks are pretty much boring items that lay around the home, but dogs are smart enough to learn that, at least from their owner’s perspective, they must have a strong meaning.

If Rover is bored and has a strong desire for some attention or play, all he has to do is grab a sock and take off with it. At that point, the owner who, was moments prior acting boring, “activates” himself and starts looking at him, talking to him and perhaps even chasing him in his favorite game of “keep away.”

Then as the owner is very close, Rover figures out that perhaps the safest place to keep the sock safe is stored inside his belly. Going, going and gone! Gulp! And off to the vet Rover goes when he develops a painful belly.

idea tipTip: dog owners should avoid playing “keep away” games with their dogs as this only reinforces the behavior of taking off with prohibited objects. Dogs should instead be trained to voluntarily swap objects with their owners using a“trading-game“. Dog owners should consult with a trainer to learn how to master this exercise so that their dogs are more likely to relinquish objects in exchange for something else rather than taking off with them.

Dogs Guarding Socksdog-with-sock

On a more serious note, some dogs ingest the sock because of a tendency to act protective of items they perceive as valuable. Items perceived as valuable include toys, bones, food and even socks may be added to the repertoire of items to be protected.

Dogs who resource guard tend to manifest signs of increasing stress as a person or dog comes closer to their items. So in the case of a sock, these dogs may stiffen, lower their head towards the sock, growl and even threaten to bite if they feel threatened enough.

If a dog perceives socks as valuable, he may even ingest them so that no other dog or person can gain access to them. Typically, these dogs ingest them the moment they notice a person or other dog has interest in them, or they might just ingest them as they find them scattered around just to keep the sock out of reach from others.

idea tipTip: Keep socks out of reach and implement behavior modification with the help of a professional. Look for a behavior professional who can guide you on teaching your dog to swap objects with you and who uses desensitization and counterconditioning and other force-free techniques for tackling resource guarding behaviors.

dog thirstDog Eating Socks due to Pica 

Dogs who eat socks may also be suffering from a condition that is known as pica. Pica is the the tendency to eat non-edible objects such as rocks, socks and other items. The underlying cause of pica may not be fully understood, but there may be chances that affected dogs may be suffering from a behavior disorder (triggered by boredom/anxiety) or some digestive problem, metabolic disorder or other underlying medical condition.

Pica may therefore be used loosely to depict the eating of non-edible items which can be due to a variety of possible causes, at least until a clear diagnosis pinpoints an exact underlying cause.

One may think that a dog with pica may be interested in eating just about anything, but generally dogs affected by pica exhibit a certain selectivity over the items to ingest. For instance, some dog are fixated over eating rocks, so if socks are exclusively on your dog’s favorite menu, do not exclude pica as a possibility.

idea tipTip: if your dog seems obsessed with eating socks, it’s always a good idea to see the vet so to exclude the possibility for medical problems. You really cannot effectively tackle a behavior problem if it’s stemming from an underlying medical condition,

” Most pica, if exhibited by dogs who are past puppyhood, involves  extreme focus on and selectivity of ingested objects. These behaviors are not normal and can become sufficiently intense that the dog disregards other activities.”~Dr. Karen Overall

What Happens When Dogs Eat Socks?dog-sock

What happens when a dog eats socks depends on the size of the dog, the amount of socks eaten and several other factors. In a small dog, eating socks is more concerning due to the ratio difference between the size of the dog’s digestive tract and the size of the sock.

A sock can easily cause an intestinal blockage in a small dog. The sock clogs somewhere in the digestive tract and doesn’t allow any food to make its way through.

What dog eating socks symptoms should one expect? Soon, the backup of food causes vomiting, the dog develops abdominal pain, nausea, lack of appetite, diarrhea, straining and perhaps also lack of bowel movements in the case of a total blockage.

In the case of a blockage due to a sock, the dog must be cut open, the vet fetches the sock and then the dog’s abdomen is sown back together. This invasive surgery is of course not good for the dog and on the owner’s pocket.

veterinaryMy Dog Just Ate a Sock What Should I do?

At the vet clinic, we often got these phone calls from distressed owners “My dog ate a sock, what should I do?” The most important question at this point was: “How long ago did your dog eat the sock?”

If the owner responded that the dog ate the sock in the last hour or two, we would then talk to our veterinarian and report back with instructions on how to induce vomiting with the correct dosage of three percent hydrogen peroxide based on the weight of the dog.

If the dog ate the sock and two hours passed, we would then tell the owners that that they had two options: if the dog was large, they could have taken a wait or see approach by keeping an eye on the dog for any concerning symptoms, while also monitoring whether the sock was vomited back up or being passed in the dog’s stool. Our vet also sometimes suggested to feed a high fiber diet in the meantime to help the dog pass the sock.

If the dog was on the smaller side though, we would caution the owner about the risks for blockages and told them it was best to bring their dog in so he could be x-rayed and possibly undergo an endoscopy to get the sock out, which is less invasive than an actual surgery! And of course, the third option when all these things failed, was surgery.

Usually when a dog is obstructed from ingestion of an item such as a sock the dog will experience vomiting or diarrhea. So, if you are seeing these signs then it becomes suspicious it is obstructed and you are going to have to get her seen. If not, my one suggestion is to feed her a high fiber diet…use canned pumpkin added to a canned diet (we need the moisture of a canned diet.)”~Dr. Joey

warning cautionWarning: never try to make your dog throw up using your fingers! This not only doesn’t work, as dogs have a different gag system, but also frightens your dog and puts you at risk for a serious bite!

dog-eating-socksStopping a Dog From Eating Socks

Stopping a dog from eating socks is important so to prevent a dog from getting sick or having surgery, and owners of dogs who are die-hard sock eaters must consider that with repeated surgeries things get more critical each time.

But how can one stop a dog from eating socks? While dogs have shown the capability of making a connection between a behavior and a consequence, this does not happen with ingesting socks because there is a too long delay between eating socks and the development of a belly ache and the discomfort associated with the surgery.

So don’t expect Rover to get wise up and learn from the whole sock-eating experience.

Providing the sock-eating dog with plenty of activities such as walks, play and interactive games can help keep his mind off of socks. Leave around plenty of fun toys that can be stuffed with treats and goodies, so that socks are less appealing.

All dogs who tend to eat socks should also be taught a solid leave it and drop it cue practicing with other objects that the dog doesn’t normally ingest, so, should the day arrive that the dog is about to grab a sock, he can be told “leave it” and if he manages to have the sock in his mouth, he can told “drop it.” These exercises should be practiced often holding refresher courses. However, these exercises work best as a “back up” for a strict environmental management plan.

An environmental management plan means that you keep those socks always out of reach. Treat those socks as if they were bottles of chemicals around a toddler. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to keep your dresser locked up, it just means that you’ll have to make a commitment in keeping those socks always out of reach. It’s isn’t really that hard once you make it routine. When you take your sock off, they must go either in the closed dresser or in inside the washing machine, with the door closed. Skip the laundry basket as Rover can easily fetch socks from there if you happen to leave it around. Basically, leave no room for error, the biggest drawback with management is lack of compliance; as is, eventually someone in the family drops a sock or forgets a door open.

As seen, stopping a dog from eating socks requires a multi-tiered approach. Plan A is to keep socks out of hand. Plan B is to keep your dog exercised and happy through walks, play and interactive games. Plan C is to have a solid leave it and drop it cue in the case Rover happens to manage gaining access to a sock no matter all the precautions taken.

idea tipDid you know? A 3-year-old male great dane won the 2014 X-Ray Contest held by Veterinary Practice News. After repeatedly vomiting all day, x-rays showed a severely distended stomach with a large quantity of foreign objects. Once exploratory surgery was started and the dog was opened up, the great dane was found to have ingested 43 and 1/2 socks! Talk about socks gone missing!

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as substitute for professional behavioral or veterinary advice. If your dog swallowed a sock please consult with your vet.

Vet explains how to induce vomiting with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Always discuss with your vet first for dosage and safety considering that some ingested substances are dangerous to have brought back up!


  • Pet Place, Pica, retrieved from the web on November 24th, 2016
  • Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, by Karen Overall, retrieved from the web on November 24th, 2016

Photo Credits:

Flickr Creative Commons, Bev Sykes Sox! CCBY2.0
Flickr Creative Commons, Taro the Shiba Inu, taro shiba & artengo socks, 11, CCBY2.0
Flickr Creative CCommons, John Lester Sock Retriever CCBY2.0

Dog Word of the Day: Runt of the Litter


In  a litter of puppies, it’s not unusual for there to be what’s known as the “runt of the litter.” The world of literature and animated movies is populated by many famous runts. If you recall as a child reading the book “Charlotte’s Web or watching the animated version of the novel, you’ll likely recall that Wilbur was the runt of the litter and was at risk for being slaughtered, while Clifford the Big Red Dog, was also a runt who managed to grow explosively until he became 25 feet tall. Not to mention Babe, the piglet hero from Dick King-Smith’s book, but what exactly is a “runt of the litter” and why are they born this way? Also what can be done to help runts survive? Fortunately nowadays, puppies who are runts of the litter have a higher chance of survival courtesy of the care provided by their humans.

runt-puppyWhat is a Puppy Runt of the Litter?

Among a litter of puppies, the runt of the litter is a puppy that is smaller and weaker than the others. However, just because a puppy is smaller than the rest that doesn’t officially make him a runt and not all litters have runts.

After all, just because your brother is 6 foot tall and you are just 5.6 doesn’t make you a runt, does it?

A better definition for runt would perhaps be a pup that is abnormally small for his breed and age and that is struggling to flourish due to health issues. However, there doesn’t seem to be any real, clear cut official definition for this term.

Runts generally face several disadvantages when compared to the rest of the litter. Puppies that are runts generally have a harder time competing with their siblings for milk and sometimes they may also be rejected by mother dog who senses something wrong with the puppy and instinctively caters her energies to the stronger puppies. Runts also typically struggle with health ailments which can range from mild to even severe and life threatening.

With a rough start and rejection from the mother, in the wild, runts tend to struggle and often fail to survive; however, in a domesticated setting, runts are often able to, not only survive, but even thrive, courtesy of some TLC provided by their caretakers. After all, runts of the litter, tend to evoke nurturing instincts in humans, so it’s not surprising to be drawn to these little fellows! Many caretakers confess that helping out runts and watching them grow bigger and stronger can be quite a rewarding experience!

“There is really no agreement among veterinarians – or anyone else for that matter – as to what constitutes a runt.” Dr. Ron Hines

What Makes a Dog the Runt of the Litter?
chihuahua puppy

A common myth that floats a lot around breeding circles is that runts are puppies who were in the middle of the uterus or who came from eggs that were conceived last.

In reality, when the dam releases her eggs to be fertilized, they are actually released all at once generally over a 24 hour span.

Even if say a puppy was conceived later than the other puppies, there are still 17 days during which they float freely before implantation and the formation of the placenta, explains Dr. Margaret V. Root Kustritz in her book  “The Dog Breeder’s Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management.” This means that all the pups are ultimately of the same age, but runts may have undergone what’s known as “poor placentation.”

What does poor placentation mean? It means that basically, during gestation, runts may have had a poor implant site in mother dog’s uterus. Perhaps there was an old placenta scar and the area of implantation did not have a rich blood supply. A poor vascular system  may therefore fail to provide the ideal blood supply that is needed for the developing puppy. Runts are not therefore, premature puppies; rather, they are simply puppies who happened to have a poor implantation site, while large pups had a better one.

“What accounts for runts is not being fertilized later than the other eggs, it is their placement within the uterine horn. “~ Myra Savant-Harris

puppyComing to the Rescue

Because runts are small and weak, mother dog may reject tending them with the care as they would with stronger puppies. Mother dog may reject them straight off the bat right when they are born, or shortly thereafter.

This means that human intervention may be necessary in order to help the puppy survive. Puppy owners may therefore have to free the puppy from the amniotic sac, massage him to increase circulation, clear his airways and then remove the puppy’s umbilical cord. Runts may also need assistance with staying warm, clean and well-fed.

Puppies who are runts  often struggle to compete with the stronger puppies. This can cause them to can miss out on nursing as they should. Failure to nurse properly can have quite an impact on the puppy’s health, especially considering that mother dogs produce a special milk known as colostrum only for the first 48 hours. This special milk is rich in antibodies that will help protect the puppies from diseases for their first few weeks when they are most vulnerable.

If a runt misses out on reaping the benefits of receiving this milk, his immune system may not be strong which can ultimately lead to illness. It’s important therefore that these pups are given the opportunity to nurse and if they appear to not want to nurse, a puppy milk replacer may help out or a veterinarian should be consulted for advice.

dog tipTip: runts may not have the same energy to nurse with vigor as the other puppies. It may help to let another puppy nurse first so to increase the milk flow, then move this puppy away and let the runt nurse so that milk flows freely.

veterinaryHealth of Runts 

When a runt of the litter is born, it’s important to find out whether there is some congenital defect of some sort or  genetic abnormality causing the puppy to not flourish and gain weight as the others. Getting a daily weight of the pups is paramount so to ensure they are growing at a steady pace.

While all new puppy owners are advised to have their new puppies undergo a vet check in the first day or two, it’s even more imperative with a runt if the litter puppy that is smaller than usual.

It’s therefore not a bad idea to consult with the breeder about the option of having the puppy see the vet and then making arrangements such as reimbursement of veterinary bills or returning the puppy based on the vet’s findings.

The veterinarian may help determine whether there is an underlying health problem. Sometimes, runts are underdeveloped in other ways than just size. For example, a portosystemic shunt (or liver shunt) can be seen in a puppy who has trouble gaining weight, but this is usually seen in small dog breeds and there are often signs of poor appetite. Also, being loaded with parasites may also play a role in causing failure to gain weight but this is usually not dramatic, explains veterinarian Dr. Marie.  Other potential problems to check for include heart defects and cleft palates.

“The runts of the litter can have heart defects and other congenital problems including umbilical hernias that the breeder might not disclose to you so it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian do a complete examination of the puppy before you agree to buy the pup (or have a refund if there is a congenital problem). Good respected breeders will understand and expect this but unfortunately there are a lot of people trying to make an easy buck.”~Dr. Jan

breeding money scamPuppy Runt of the Litter Price

And what about price? Just because a puppy is a bit slower to develop compared to the other puppies, doesn’t mean he should cost less than the other puppies as long as he’s healthy.

Many smaller runt if the litter puppies grow up to be the same size, (if not even larger!) than the other pups.

Some unethical breeders may charge a premium for runts in small breed dogs and call them with the flashy name of “teacup dog breeds.”

Ethical breeders, on the other hand, will never use a true runt as a candidate for breeding and therefore will sell them for a normal price as their other puppies along with a strict spay or neuter contract.

“The small size does not necessarily mean that the runt of the litter will not be a good pet if all other health issues are within expected limits.”~ Dr. Robert L. Ridgway


  • The Dog Breeder’s Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management. by Margaret V. Root Kustritz DVM PhD DACT Saunders; 1 edition (December 23, 2005)
  • Canine Reproduction and Whelping: A Dog Breeder’s Guide, By Myra Savant-Harris, Dogwise Ebooks (January 1, 2006)

Photo Credits:

Flickr Creative Commons, Wendy Berry, Little Runt, He doesn’t even want the milk. He’s just wants to nurse on something, anything.

What are Skin Tags on a Dog?


dog-skin-tagsIn dog circles, there are often some terms that are not quite readily easy to understand and skin tags may be one of them. What are skin tags on a dog? What do dog skin tags look like? Where are dog skin tags found?

If you never heard about the term skin tag before, you may be wondering exactly what dog skin tags are, especially if you are a dog owner. Or maybe you may have stumbled on the term before, perhaps coming from other dog owners or from a vet, but were too embarrassed to ask what on earth dog skin tags are exactly.

On the other hand, it might be you know what dog skin tags are and just want to learn more about them. So today’s trivia question of the day revolves around skin tags in dogs, will you be able to identify the correct answer?

What are skin tags in dogs?

A  It’s a tag embedded in the dog’s skin for identification purposes

B It’s a tag attached to a dog’s skin with a registration number for breeding specimens.

C It’s a small growth on the dog’s skin

D It’s a small remnant of skin that may stick out after a dog had stitches that failed to close correctly.

The correct answer is, drum roll please ……




The correct answer is C: A skin tag in a dog is a small growth found on the dog’s skin.

skin-tag-on-dog-legSo What on Earth Are Skin Tags in Dogs?

Veterinarians are quite used to dog owners wondering about skin tags. Dog owners may be petting their dogs when they suddenly stumble upon this fleshy little growth that is flexible and bends and that they have never noticed before.

Next thing they know, they rush over to the vet concerned about it.”What is this penduculated blob of  hairless skin doing on my dog’s chest?”

What do dog skin tags look like? Dog owners may describe skin tags as being small like a grain of rice or fleshy like a raisin, but what are really skin tags, and most of all, how did they end up being on the dog in the first place?

Medically known as acrochordons, the Merck Veterinary Manual describes skin tags as being benign, cutaneous growths often found in older dogs. Skin tags can develop in any dog breed and can present as isolated growths or they can be in good company appearing in several different parts of the dog’s body.

Skin tags are normally not painful when touched and may appear on the dog’s face, head, legs, chest area and armpit area, but they can really appear just about anywhere. Fortunately, in many cases, skin tags are nothing to worry about and the vet may recommend just keeping an eye on these growths and report if skin tags in dogs get bigger or change appearance. Yes, dog skin tags are unsightly, but they often seem to bother more owners than dogs. While skin tags are considered benign, as with any lumps, bumps and growths, a biopsy may be needed to confirm it’s truly a skin tag.

Dog skin tags may look like ticks!

Skin Tag or Tick?

Often, when dog owners find a skin tag on their dog, they often wonder if it’s an actual skin tag or a tick. The two may resemble a bit each other, but there is an easy way to figure it out.

Simply, part the dog’s hair and then carefully look at the area where the “growth” attaches to the skin. Do you see wriggling legs or a mouth part? To get a better look, you might have to grab a magnifying glass just to make sure. Just in case you are wondering, yes, the picture on the right is featuring an embedded tick.  Yes, gross!

If you see wriggling legs, then  you can simply remove it by grabbing it firmly by the head as close to the dog’s skin as you can  with a pair of tweezers and then gently tug it off. Ideally, you should get the tick all out, but if you leave the head behind, the dog’s body, with time, will dislodge it on its own.

If it’s a skin tag, you should have your vet take a look at it and see what he recommends doing. Chances are, if it ‘s just a skin tag, he may recommend keeping at eye on it, but some vets are more conservative and will recommend having it biopsied to err on the side of caution.

How to Remove Skin Tags in Dogsveterinary

Removal of skin tags in dogs is usually optional, but sometimes there may be some good reasons for removing them.

For instance, if the dog tends to pester his skin tag, chewing on it or scratching it, it’s a good idea to have it removed as skin tags tend to bleed, get irritated and can become infected.

If the dog’s skin tag is located in a bothersome area such as where the collar goes or near the dog’s eyes, rear end or mouth area, removal is also often recommended.

If the vet recommends having a skin tag removed, there are several options. Skin tags in dogs can be removed through a small surgical procedure that can be done under local anesthesia with some sedation or total anesthesia.  The choice for dog skin tag removal may vary based on its location and the over all temperament of the dog. Some vets may recommend having them removed through electrosurgery or cryosurgery.

warning cautionAbout Home Remedies for Dog Skin Tags

Many people look for home remedies for skin tags in dogs, but most of them are not safe and not recommended! We stumbled on several website offering tips on removing dog skin tags, but no, it’s not something to do at home!

For instance, veterinarian Dr. Loretta warns that yes, technically one can tie off the end of a skin tag with dental floss, apply alcohol and then cut it off with scissors, using a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding, but this can be stressful on the dog and will cause the dog to be likely screaming in pain!

Also, even though a skin tag may appear thin, it actually has a large blood vessel that bleeds and there are risks for infections. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can just easily remove a dog’s skin tag at home. Many have, and they have regretted it when their dogs got nasty complications.  It’s is best to have this done by a veterinarian in a sterile environment possibly with the vet using only local anesthesia.

And what about cutting off blood supply to the skin tag by tying it with dental floss if hopes of it dropping off? Even this procedure is dangerous. Veterinarian Dr. Deb warns that she has seen people with the best intentions trying to remove dog skin tags at home, only to create some nasty infections. No matter what you read, this is something that should not be done at home!

“Using floss, string, or rubber bands in this way is one of the worst things you can do… It is literally dying and rotting off the body.  Who thinks this is a good thing?  There is a big risk of infection or having more tissue than desired affected.  In the case of a mass or polyp, you leave the base in the skin so it has a chance of regrowing.  In order to completely resolve the problem you have to cut away the attached skin, not just remove the dangling part.” ~Dr. Chris Bern

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as substitute for veterinary advice. If your dog has a lump, bump or growth, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.


  • Merck Veterinary Manual, Connective Tissue Tumors, retrieved from the web on November 21st, 2016
  • A Vet’s Guide to Life, Dental Floss Doesn’t Remove Skin Tags, But Thanks For Trying, November 21st, 2016

Photo Credits:

Wikipedia, Creative Commons, Jack Russell terrier sitting and tilting her head, Writ Keeper


I am Your Dog’s Meninges


Your dog’s meninges are structures your dog may hopefully never have a problem with, but as with other dog body parts, there are always some fascinating things to discover. For instance, did you know that your dog’s brain, on top of being protected by the skull, is also protected by several layers of tissue? These layers of tissue are basically your dog’s meninges. Meninges have several functions and just as other dog body parts they are predisposed to medical conditions and problems. So today, let’s discover more about a dog’s meninges, what their purpose is and when things go wrong.

dog-meningesI am Your Dog’s Meninges

Hello, it’s your dog’s meninges talking! Our name comes from the ancient Greek word “meninx” which means membrane. As our name implies, we are membranes that envelop your dog’s brain.

Imagine your dog’s brain as being an onion while we are the layers. There are three layers of us actually covering the brain: the dura mater, the arachnoid mater and the pia mater. Let’s take a closer look at these layers individually, shall we?

Coming from the Latin word for”tough mother,” the dura mater is a thick membrane that is found closest to the skull.

The arachnoid mater, discovered in 1664 by the Dutch anatomist Gerardus Blasiusm, is the layer that is sandwiched in the middle. Its name derives from the the Greek word “Arachne” (“spider”) because of its spider-web like appearance.

Finally, the last layer is the pia mater, coming from the Latin word for “tender mother.” This is the most delicate membrane. This structure adheres to the surface and contours of the brain and spinal cord.

In between the layers of the arachnoid and pia mater, there is a space that is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

We Protect the Central Nervous System.

As you can imagine, we play a protective role. Together, we protect your dog’s central nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. The dura mater is quite thick, and as the name implies,  the”tough mother” acts like a mother protecting her child (the brain.) The arachnoid mater provides also provides cushioning for the central nervous system while the pia mater on the other hand, contains blood vessels and small capillaries which are meant for providing nourishment to the dog’s brain.

When Things Go Wrongveterinary

We are susceptible to the effects of trauma. When the trauma is forceful enough, affected dogs may develop a subrachnoid hemorrhage, meaning that there is bleeding under the arachnoid. A hematoma, a collection of blood from torn veins, may also form between the arachnoid layer and the dura mater layer.

As with other structures, we also prone to getting inflamed. Fortunately, though this doesn’t happen as often as in other body parts courtesy of the protective barriers of the nervous system such as the blood brain barrier.

However, when these barriers weaken and we do get inflamed, the condition is known as meningitis. This inflammatory condition can be caused by viruses, protozoa, rickettsia, and fungi. Affected dogs develop an elevated temperature, neck pain, muscular spasms and rigidity. Left untreated, meningitis can progress and cause serious neurological problems such as seizures, paralysis and even death.

In some cases, we can also develop tumors, and these are referred to meningiomas. Meningiomas are likely the most common cause of seizures affecting dogs over the age of six, explains veterinarian Wendy C. Brooks.  On top of causing seizures, these tumors can cause a dog to walk in circles, drag toes, and walk in a drunk-like gait. Since, most menangiomas in dogs develop in the front part of the skull, where the olfactory lobes are located, an altered sense of smell may also occur.

Meningioma tumors grow from the skull inward, which makes them more advantageous for surgical removal compared to growths set deep in the brain. Not all meningiomas are malignant, actually most tend to be benign, meaning that they do not spread to other areas. However, any growths in this area can be problematic, considering the limited amount of space within the dog’s skull. For this reason, prednisone is often prescribed to reduce the  problematic swelling.  Anti-seizure meds are also often prescribed, but these are only palliatives, a more definitive treatment involves surgical removal of the growth and/or radiation therapy.

As seen, we are quite important structures! Think about what a good job we do in preserving your dog’a brain and spinal cord! Yours truly,

Your dog’s meninges.Dog Pawprint

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for veterinary advice. If your dog is sick, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.


  • Merck Veterinary Manual, Meningitis and Encephalitis in Dogs, retrieved from the web on November 20th, 2016



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